A rarely stated, but fairly common, belief here is that some tropes are rigid, and that the only variation comes with Playing with a Trope. Or some here think that most tropes are rigid, unless "Sliding Scale" is in the name. But it's not really true at all (also the reason we have The Same, but More). This belief often manifests in examples as citing the trope name, but with emphasis added on a changed word.
Even in the most narrowly defined Sub Tropes, there is plenty of room for variation, even when playing straight. There can even be degrees of how the trope is applied, which is certainly the reason we don't allow The Same, but More.
Two of the most common variations for a trope are the scale, and the importance in the story. But, there are quite a few other ways to allow for trope variations.
The only actual thing rigid about tropes is the cutoff between one trope and another, or at least that is what we are striving for. Even when it involves Super Tropes and Sub Tropes, or if there is overlap with another trope, those tropes are still separate.
So, the next time you think a trope is separate from another trope, make sure the line is clear. If it's not, you didn't make a mistake, other than to underestimate how flexible tropes are.
Contrast Square Peg, Round Trope (when an example doesn't fit the trope no matter how you twist it around).
To best illustrate this concept, examples should be straight uses, with only some playing with them
- Adult Fear is about anything that a well-adjusted adult with common sense would be scared about. Although children being in danger is a common source of this, examples don't always need to be about them; things like the threat of losing one's home (due to a fire, natural disaster, not being able to pay the rent, etc.), human rights violations, domestic terrorism, debt collectors, and Police Brutality are all things that can happen in real, everyday life.
- All Just a Dream has quite a broad scope. It can be used for a single scene, entire episodes, entire seasons (Dallas), or even the entire series (St. Elsewhere). It can be a regular dream (The Wizard of Oz), a psychotic delusion of innocence told by an Unreliable Narrator (The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari) or even a "simulation" (Family Guy; 6th season, episodes 4th and 5th).
- Butt-Monkey means simply a character who things hardly ever work out for, and nothing more. There are people who refuse to apply it even where it fits, because they mistakenly believe that it is required to be Played for Laughs. There is a type of Butt-Monkey that is required to be Played for Laughs—but that trope is The Chew Toy.
- Many examples of Does This Remind You of Anything? are about sexually suggestive things, but that's not a requirement; allegories for historical conflicts, contemporary conflicts, controversial topics or even just mundane unpleasantries are also legitimate examples.
- Fanservice, though primarily known for its sexual value, also encompasses the usage of Ensemble Dark Horse, Popularity Power, Meme Acknowledgement, Moments of Awesome, etc. to appeal to the fanbase's sensibilities in equally exciting ways.
- Game Gourmet is about variety of collectible or selectable food in video games. It is common for games under this trope to have too many different foodstuffs to count, but the current minimum stands at 10 (which is still only a guideline).
- The assumptions in a Great Politics Mess-Up don't necessarily have to involve the Cold War; any dramatic change in the real-world political status quo is fair game. For example, if a work written in the 18th century is set in the 20th century and this fictitious 20th century still has the thirteen British colonies rather than an independent coast-to-coast union of states, it counts.
- In terms of Malevolent Architecture, console Roleplaying Games tend to have loads of enemies, but rarely any hazards in the buildings, save for the occasional lava floor. On the other hand, Tomb of Horrors is infamous for having loads of traps in every room.
- Personal Horror can cover a wide variety of things as the key component is that the character it happens to is traumatized by their reaction and feels alienated from their sense of self.
- Planet Looters don't necessarily have to target Earth, so examples where humans are looting other planets are still straight examples. The inversion would be if, say, one civilisation was selling its planet's resources to others.
- Sex Sells has a wide range, from just attractive people in a picture, to acts that just scream "DOES THIS REMIND YOU OF ANYTHING?"
- A work featuring a "Stuck at the Airport" Plot need not take place at an actual airport. Any old bus or train station will do.
- That One Boss, That One Level, and others listed on That One Index need not be Nintendo Hard sections in otherwise easy games. They just need to be noticably harder than the rest of the game (or most of it).
- Xanatos Gambit and Batman Gambit are both about specific types of ingenious plans. The thing is, there is nothing saying they have to be of a certain scale. Using these plans could involve just getting a promotion from your boss, to world conquest. They also have nothing to do with being good or evil, despite their respective Trope Namers; heroes can use Xanatos Gambits and villains can use Batman Gambits.